Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

Cam Jurgens is Squarely at the Center of a Shifting Mentality on the Nebraska Offensive Line

July 29, 2021

Go to BeefJurgy.com and buy a hat, Cam Jurgens joked on Thursday, with the Huskers on the eve of fall camp.

Jurgens, Nebraska’s starting center, was up at the podium getting hit with NIL questions. It’s certainly a new world in college athletics; here were “amateurs” talking openly about sponsorship deals. Jurgens has branded clothing. He was sporting a hat with his logo on it for the Thursday press conference. His quarterback, Adrian Martinez, was one of the first teammates to get a shirt. Jurgens, of course, made him pay for it. 

No freebies anymore. What a time for student-athletes. 

Well, sort of. Hit pause for a few months on the NIL craze. Players are open for business, but the ones who have been around the block a few times—this will be Jurgens’ fourth fall camp as a member of the team—know it’s about time to earn your keep. 

Your market value, Jurgens said, is set by your performance on Saturdays. 

For Jurgens, it’s time to start growing the brand. 

“We’ve got a little (bit of a) sour taste in our mouth from last season,” Jurgens said. “We want to kind of right this ship, do a little better, play some winning football.”

The man nicknamed “Beef Jurgy” has been on a mission this offseason to fix some of the technical pieces of his game and grow his voice on a young offensive line. 

Snapping has been a pain point. Nebraska has confidence those problems have been addressed. Jurgens has put in the work. The true test will come on Aug. 28 when Nebraska opens the new season, and for now Jurgens is focused on being at his best day in and day out. He knows guys are watching. 

“I’m kind of a lead by example guy,” he said. “The more I can do the right thing and show them what’s the right way to do it, they see that and can follow. Also, if I see them stepping out of line, the older guys step in and say ‘This is how you do things around here.’ 

“There’s a certain level of a product that needs to be put on the field and each year we need to raise that.”

Husker head coach Scott Frost has seen that attitude reflected across the line. 

They’re young, Jurgens being the exception, but have a tremendous amount of promise. 

Blue-chip prospects at tackle represent pillars Nebraska hopes will be in place for the next few seasons. Bryce Benhart, over on the right side, has a full (kinda) year’s worth of starts under his belt. Turner Corcoran, on the left, picked up the reins for the departed Brenden Jaimes in last year’s finale against Rutgers. Corcoran is expected to step into a full-time starting role at left tackle this season. 

Regardless of the youth, there’s a sense on the line that they’ll be the tone-setters for the offense, that Nebraska will go as far as the offensive line paves. 

“We’ve got a lot of leaders on the line and guys who aren’t afraid to speak up if another position group’s acting out of line, o-line’s gonna step in and set the tone for that,” Jurgens said. “That’s what we need to be doing this year.”

And the Beatrice native is a big piece of that. He’s on the Rimington Trophy preseason watch list ahead of the new year, an indicator of his appeal but also certainly a reminder of the expectations. A lot is placed on Jurgens’ shoulders.

Nebraska needs the center spot to be better just as it needs the entire o-line to be better. 

“I love this core group on the offensive line and their attitude,” Frost said a week ago at Big Ten media days in Indianapolis. “I think that’s a group that can make the former pipeline guys proud.”

That group might have a say in that, though. From the sound of things, they’ve spent some time with the young Husker line this offseason too. 

“I know the guys have spent some time this summer around some of our ex-players, Aaron Graham and Rob Zatechka and (Brenden) Stai and (Matt) Hoskinson and some of the guys that have played long ago,” Frost said. “The leaders on your team have to have the right mentality, particularly when it comes to the front line on offense and the front line on defense. It’s probably still a little young but I’m really starting to see that type of determination from those guys.”

Jurgens feels like he’s got a better chemistry with quarterback Adrian Martinez. The two were golf scramble partners this summer, that helped. Being able to communicate more effectively on the field will certainly help. 

Offensive line coach Greg Austin, in the spring, said he wanted Jurgens to be more of a comptroller within the larger offense. Be more accountable to your teammates, hold them to a standard, hold yourself to a standard. 

Jurgens feels like the competition levels have risen. 

“I think we’ve always had some guys, but I think it’s just getting guys in here that are more competitive,” Jurgens said of the growth in the room. “You should always be getting pushed. It shouldn’t matter if you’re a three-year starter, whatever. It should be the same every year. If you’re a football player and you care about it and you’re a second-teamer, you should be pushing the guy in front of you. I think it’s more about having the right people in here.”

Nebraska feels like it does. 

“If I had to pick one thing (I like) it’s that the attitude is changing,” Frost said. “It’s transforming from ‘I hope we get the job done’ to ‘We’re gonna go make this happen.’ Being a little more aggressive and physical.”

Jurgens used slightly more colorful language to convey the point.

“Just having that gritty attitude and talking to guys in the past and what made up the pipeline,” he said. “Just, guys going against the person across from you and kicking ass and making sure they’re having a tougher game than you are. That’s what we need to get back to.”

Time to go to work. 

So go buy a hat, or a hoodie, or just check out the site. With fall camp now here, Jurgens’ attention has shifted to growing his name rather than promoting it. 

“I just want to hit some dudes right now, honestly,” he said. “It’s been awhile.”

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